A good toy is a matter of taste and personality. Your pet might turn up his beak at something you thought would be an instant hit, and may get hours of pleasure from a plain ball or plastic bottle top. Don’t be offended if he rejects your offerings. Take note of the type of toys he does like; and you can always reintroduce the reject again a few days later to see if your bird’s opinion of it has changed.
A tame budgie will quickly engage with any new object in his cage, after a few moments of standoffishness and circumspection. Less tame, single birds will take longer to adjust to the idea of a new object in their cage, and might even flap around in panic when it’s first introduced. However, it is important to vary the budgie’s environment with new toys, so don’t be put off, and don’t leave it several weeks before swapping things around. Your bird will soon grow accustomed to the routine of having his playthings changed.
Budgies love toys
The size of the toys will depend on the size of your cage. But also remember that budgie toys can be played with outside the cage in the room where the bird flies free. You should provide any larger aviary setup with plenty of toys, too. You are less limited by scale here, and can introduce obstacle courses, multi-level climbing frames, hanging feeders and more.
Safe Toys for Budgies
You need to make sure that any toy introduced into the cage is safe for budgies. Never try things out on a trial or error basis. Avoid sharp edges, or objects with gaps or loose threads where a foot, toe, beak or head might get caught – a trapped, panicking budgie can easily die of stress. Loose strings hanging from the top of the cage can be hazardous too.
A pet shop toy intended for a larger bird might not always be suitable for a budgie. If in doubt, ask the pet shop staff for advice; and if you suspect their advice is just an intelligent guess rather than an expert response, apply common sense and ask yourself: “Is it too big, too sharp, a potential trap, or toxic?”
A young hen budgie tries out her new wheel
Budgies have excellent colour vision, and may find coloured toys more interesting. This detail shouldn’t be overplayed, however, and a plain dowelling ladder or climbing frame will still provide hours of fun. If opting for coloured wood, make sure any wood dye involved is okay for budgies. Harmless, natural food colours and vegetable dyes are used to colour wooden budgie toys, but it is always worth checking with the pet shop. If there is any doubt in your mind, don’t buy. Always avoid anything with a varnish or painted surface.
Non-toxic paints, such as the ones used in baby toys, should be safe; but it’s easier to go for a simple ‘no paint’ rule to eliminate all doubt.
Avoid buying any flavoured toy or wood – it’s an odd concept, but such things do exist. You don’t want to encourage the budgie to eat lots of wood: chewing is a game, not an extra meal. There are often sugars in the flavouring, which are bad for your bird’s health and might also breed bacteria.
Modern acrylic plastic toys and cage attachments are perfectly good substitutes for wooden toys, and non-toxic. The other three tick-boxes of the ‘big, sharp, trap or toxic’ checklist still apply, though.
Budgie Cage Toys
There are four categories of budgie cage toy (and many fulfil more than one of these functions): swinging, climbing, chewing, exploring.
A budgie will use anything suspended from the top of his cage or aviary as a swing. A rope, a suspended toy, or a simple, shop-bought perch/swing that hooks over the top bars will give your bird lots of action, and some gentle, swinging downtime too.
Adding extra bits to a swing always goes down well – a bell or hoop attached underneath, for example. Try to vary the textures of the perching areas, with a mix of smooth wood, twisted sticks and plastic. You can also buy hard rubber swinging frames, adding further tactile variety to the cage.
Budgie Toys: Climbing
From homemade climbing sticks to complex budgie gyms, there are lots to choose from or construct. If you buy a plastic toy it will be safe for the bird; but make sure that any painted or stained wood is non-toxic for budgies. Adopt this rule of thumb – if it’s not made from a material you would happily watch your children chewing, don’t give it to the budgie. Buying from a reputable supplier is always recommended; and, again, make sure the toy is suitable for a bird as small as a budgie. A cockatiel or larger parrot’s idea of fun could be a budgie’s death trap.
A climbing rope is always a favourite with budgies, whether fitted vertically or horizontally (ideally both). The rope needs to be tightly wound, as any loose threads could catch a toenail or beak. Hung from the top of the cage, they act as a swing too. However, check out our note on rope toys in the Toys unsafe for budgie section below.
Budgie Toys: Chewing
When it comes to nibbling and chewing, think of your budgie as a feathered rodent. He needs to chew as surely as a mouse or gerbil needs to chew. You’ll have this partly covered already, with the cuttlefish bone and mineral block that are part of a budgie cage’s bare essentials. But budgerigars like to chew as they play, so provide them with something suitable. This could be as simple as a piece of balsa wood; but make sure the wood has not been treated with any toxic chemical.
A hen budgie feels a particularly strong urge to chew when she’s ready to breed. Providing her with extra chewables will make sure she doesn’t head straight for your books or the loose edges of your wallpaper when she’s outside the cage.
Budgie Toys: Exploring
Pet shop catalogues feature an imaginative range of toys with all manner of bells, ladders and dangly bits (such as skittles, plastic fruits or small balls). ‘Exploring’ toys are multi-sensory, providing stimulation through noise, movement and texture. They have surfaces to rub or scratch a head against (budgies love to do this), perch-while-you-play options, and opportunities to hit things with beaks. Combine all these in one exploring toy, and you’ve got a winner!
These cover all four of the toy-type categories, as your budgie will climb and swing on them, strike them with his beak, and try to chew the clapper inside. Bells can be hang-alone items, or a feature of another cage accessory such as a swing, perch or hanging toy. Always opt for an open-bottomed bell, and avoid the Christmas ‘jingle bell’ type with its potentially toe-snagging slit.